Circumstances Revealed Voluntary Resignations

Hazel was engaged by University of Saint Anthony as a credit and collection officer. Arlene was engaged as its accounting clerk. Jean was its classroom teacher. And Nancy was its accounting officer.

With regard to Hazel, University of Saint Anthony noticed several irregular and anomalous transactions its University’s Accounting Office by way of a cash shortage of more than One Million Pesos representing the net collection of book remittances. Another audit report revealed anomalous transactions in prior years where tellers accommodated encashments of checks not in the name of University of Saint Anthony. Hazel went on leave during the audit, but later tendered her resignation. Record showed that University of Saint Anthony filed a criminal case and an information was filed before the Regional Trial Court.

At around the same period, Arlene, Jean, and Nancy were found to have taken advantage of their positions in the Accounting Office by enrolling their children and relatives under the University’s group enrollment incentive program despite knowing that they were unqualified. Upon discovery of the fraudulent scheme, University of Saint Anthony immediately ordered an investigation and called a conference with Arlene, Jean and Nancy. During a conference, Arlene, Jean, and Nancy admitted that their children and relatives indeed benefitted from the unauthorized discounts. They were informed that their employment will be terminated on grounds of dishonesty amounting to malversation of school funds. Thereafter, Arlene, Jean, and Nancy tendered their resignation on December 22, 2007 (taking effect on January 2, 2008). Subsequently, University of Saint Anthony filed criminal cases Arlene, Jean, and Nancy.

Hazel, Arlene, Jean, and Nancy soon filed their respective complaints for illegal dismissal against University of Saint Anthony.

The Office of the Labor Arbiter declared their dismissal illegal and granted them the reliefs of reinstatement and backwages. On appeal, the National Labor Relations Commission reversed the decision of the Office of the Labor Arbiter because it found that the Hazel, Arlene, Jean and Nancy voluntarily resigned and opted for a voluntary exit before the effectivity of their supposed termination from employment. The Court of Appeals affirmed the Decision of the National Labor Relations Commission.

An issue raised before the Supreme Court was whether the resignations of Hazel, Arlene, Jean, and Nancy rendered their complaints for illegal dismissal without basis.

The Supreme Court ruled that Hazel, Arlene, Jean, and Nancy voluntarily resigned from employment.

Jurisprudence teaches that resignation is the formal pronouncement or relinquishment of a position or office. It is the voluntary act of an employee who is in a situation where he believes that personal reasons cannot be sacrificed in favor of the exigency of the service, and he has then no other choice but to disassociate himself from employment. The intent to relinquish must concur with the overt act of relinquishment; hence, the acts of the employee before and after the alleged resignation must be considered in determining whether he in fact intended to terminate his employment. In illegal dismissal cases, it is a fundamental rule that when an employer interposes the defense of resignation, on him necessarily rests the burden to prove that the employee indeed voluntarily resigned. For resignation from employment to be valid, there must be an intent to relinquish the position together with the overt act of relinquishment. Resignation must be voluntary. In illegal dismissal cases, the employer, if defense of resignation is presented, must show that the employee indeed voluntarily resigned.

In the present case, the Court ruled that the fact of resignation by Hazel, Arlene, Jean, and Nancy was undisputed. It found that Hazel tendered her resignation on July 27, 2007, while Arlene, Jean, and Nancy tendered their resignation on December 22, 2007. Said resignations were found to have been approved by University of Saint Anthony.

According to the Court, University of Saint Anthony correctly argued that Hazel, Arlene, Jean, and Nancy had voluntarily tendered their resignation before filing their complaints for illegal dismissal. The Court noted that ruling of the National Labor Relations Commission that this event rendered their complaints for illegal dismissal without basis as the employment relationship was severed before the effectivity date of its termination. The Court also noted that notwithstanding such ruling, Hazel, Arlene, Jean, and Nancy, no longer contested the same but insisted that there they were illegally dismissed.

The Court considered the totality of circumstances, and ruled that University of Saint Anthony showed that Hazel, Arlene, Jean, and Nancy voluntarily resigned prior to the effectivity date of the termination of their employment. It was found that ongoing investigations were conducted relative to the irregular acts imputed to Hazel, Arlene, Jean, and Nancy thereby placing them in a difficult position. Although the Court acknowledged that wordings in resignations letters are not the sole test of voluntariness, the wording of the resignation letters of Hazel, Arlene, Jean, and Nancy, together with other circumstances found by the Court, showed the voluntariness of their resignations. The Court also emphasized that Hazel, Arlene, Jean, and Nancy neither contended nor presented countervailing evidence that their resignation was involuntary. The Court added the settled rule that there is nothing reprehensible or illegal when the employer grants the employee a chance to resign and save face rather than smear the latter’s employment record.

In view of the voluntary resignations of Hazel, Arlene, Jean, and Nancy prior to the termination of their employment, the Court concluded that their complaints for illegal dismissal had no basis.

Further reading:

  • Bance v. University of St. Anthony, G.R. No. 202724, February 3, 2021.
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